It started off as a perfect marriage of a head coach and a general manager who together designed the perfect rebuild plan for the Miami Dolphins. On Monday, it ended in the firing of the head coach in a move that surprised many. Coming off a win over the New England Patriots and with two straight winning seasons, the Dolphins are suddenly changing course and moving on from Brian Flores.
What happened to end the Flores era after just three seasons? According to Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, it came down to the basics. “I think if you look at it, it’s really communication and collaboration,” Ross said when meeting the media following the dismissal of Flores. “I don’t think there is any organization in this country that unless you have excellent communication and collaborative efforts within the whole organization, that you can really win and sustain yourself in the long term.”
The Dolphins had internal dysfunction that most of us did not see. Something broke the communication within the franchise, and it came down to Ross choosing to keep general manager Chris Grier in place while moving on from Flores.
“I think if you look at our roster, I think we have a very fine, excellent roster of young players,” Ross explained of Grier’s performance for the franchise. “This was all done in the last three years. We had an old, aging roster before that was leading us nowhere but to mediocrity and I think that if you look at our roster today, you see our salary cap and the players we have, I think we are well suited for the future.”
Clearly, Ross felt a change had to be made before the team completely imploded. “Well, I’ve been looking at this over three years now and watching the organization grow. I think an organization can only function if it is collaborative and it works well together,” Ross said Monday. “I don’t think that we were really working well as an organization that it would take to really win consistently at the NFL level.”
What was the breakdown and where? Ross did not provide specifics, but it appears there was a clear break in the marriage of Flores and Grier. Speculation could be made that there was a potential break in the relationship between Flores and quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. Prior to the NFL trade deadline, the Dolphins were rumored to be interested in trading for Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson. Flores was repeatedly asked about the rumors and would neither confirm nor deny them - which could have broken the trust Tagovailoa had in his coach.
Ross was asked if the interest in trading for Watson or if keeping Tagovailoa as the future of the franchise went into firing Flores. “First of all, let me be clear, it played no role at all,” Flores replied. “I have a lot of confidence in Tua and I think the next head coach will work with him, or whoever else, but I have a lot of confidence in him. I have watched him grow. I think he’s a fine young man and he is right now the quarterback and that will be dependent upon the new head coach but I have a lot of confidence in Tua.”
And, despite rumors Ross was among those pushing to acquire Watson, he explained that he is not looking to make a trade as of now. “I have no plans. It will be up to the head coach in terms of what he does with the quarterback,” Ross said. “Tua, as I said before, I have a lot of confidence in Tua. It is really going to be dependent on who the next head coach is and the direction that he wants to take at that position.”
The immediate speculation for Miami’s next head coach returned to former Dolphins head coaching target, University of Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh. Ross laughed when Harbaugh was brought up during his media availability, stating, “I have no coach in mind at this point. We’re going to do a thorough review and interview process. Jim Harbaugh, I love Jim Harbaugh. He had the opportunity once before to come to the Miami Dolphins. But he’s at the University of Michigan as everybody really knows. That is the school that I graduated from and I’m very involved in it, and I’m not going to be the person that takes Jim Harbaugh from the University of Michigan. I hope he stays there. He is a great coach.”
The next coach of the Dolphins, whether it is Harbaugh or someone else, better be able to communicate and collaborate with Grier, Tua, Ross, and the entire organization. “Different people rub people different ways,” Ross said. Apparently, the Dolphins had to make a change because Flores was not communicating within the organization and had rubbed people the wrong way.
Can the Dolphins finally find the right guy in their newest head coaching search? Will he be able to communicate and collaborate?